Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – After a stuttering start to the season, Real Madrid are now only looking forwards. Whether it be the tremendously disappointing and short spell of Julen Lopetegui as head coach, or be it last weekend’s humiliating yet deserved defeat against Eibar, Los Blancos are now solely focusing on the months ahead, ensuring that something positive comes from a season that many feared was fast becoming a write-off.
Even since Santi Solari took over from Lopetegui, Real have struggled for consistency. Last week’s disappointing showing in the Basque country only led to more questions than answers. Increasingly there has been a sense that the youngsters in the Madrid squad should be given more of a chance. It is deemed that the elder statesmen are the ones holding back a new burgeoning Real Madrid. On Saturday evening, Solari listened and it paid off.
“Cantera to the rescue” was Diario AS’s headline on Sunday morning, and editor Alfredo Relano put forward a strong argument as to why more faith should be placed in the younger Madridistas. On the pitch, against a Valencia team who have also failed to find their rhythm this season, two goals created by Real’s cantera rescued the hosts.
For some time now, it has seemed – from a distance at least – that Barcelona and Real Madrid have swapped places in terms of how they form their squads. La Masia, Barcelona’s famed youth academy, is not delivering the same quality of player as it did 10 or 15 years ago. In many respects the link between the Mini Estadi and the Camp Nou has dried up. Real, however, have reined in their galactic spending and didn’t even feel the urge to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with not only another superstar, but any star at all. That speaks volumes of how Florentino Perez’s outlook has changed.
If anything, Real have had to rely on their youth products more so than ever in the past two years, but none have had a sustained run in the team. Now there is an urge to stick with them and let them take this Madrid side forward. The benefits of using in-house talent was there for all to see on Saturday. There was Marcos Llorente providing pace and energy to central midfield, Sergio Reguilon was efficient and energetic at left back, Lucas Vazquez scored his second goal of the week whilst Dani Carvajal was directly involved in both of Real’s goals on the night.
Having younger players performing without fear is what Real need at the moment. Zinedine Zidane knew that it was time to leave in the summer, but perhaps some of the players he was leaving did not realise the extent of the shake-up that was needed. Although it was a winning team, it was also one that needed to be freshened up. Zidane saw it coming and so did Ronaldo.
Evidently confidence has been lacking at Real of late and it’s brought a poor start to the season – one that has left them well off the pace in La Liga but still progressing from an easy Champions League group. A decision was there to be made and Solari showed his courageousness by starting Reguilon, Llorente, Dani Ceballos and Vazquez.
The hosts were much the better side in the first period; playing full of energy they were quick to press and force Los Che into errors. Once again, however, Real found it difficult to convert their dominance into goals. A Daniel Wass headed own goal was the only difference between the two sides on the scoreboard going into half time, and that was again down to a Llorente interception along with tenacious and incessant play from Carvajal.
As to why Real have not been as prolific in front of goal this season, the main reason is that their record goalscorer has left and not been replaced. Karim Benzema has tried but struggled to bridge the gap but he has always been a complimentary striker. He has taken on more responsibility though and one run he made here against Valencia was full of skill and vision. It is perhaps with Gareth Bale where the greatest disappointment lies.
Bale offers more of a goalscoring threat than Benzema but has struggled for consistency. He went off with what Mundo Deportivo called “another injury”, the home crowd offered little sympathy and even began to whistle. His role in this team is increasingly becoming questioned. And with Vinicius Junior, Mariano Diaz and even Isco breathing down his neck, there is a sense that he must deliver more consistently.
In the second half, it felt that Real’s lack of cutting edge despite their dominance in the first half was going to be punished as Valencia grew in confidence. Santi Mina was instrumental, feeding Kevin Gameiro in the area but the finishes were lacking. There wasn’t the same intensity to Real’s general play and even the pressing was more intermittent; only natural when four of the starting XI had only started nine matches put together this season.
Valencia began testing Thibaut Courtois with more regularity. Even when Solari brought on Isco with 10 minutes left, Madrid struggled to see much of the ball. What Madrid did have was an opportunity to stretch the match on the counterattack and the game was sealed with one particular incisive break. Vazquez robbed Jose Gaya of the ball and started the attack in motion. It was Vazquez who also finished the move when he received the ball from Marco Asensio in the area, firing past Neto and showing the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu what the young Madridistas can achieve.
Los Otros Puntos
It was not the two goals scored that pleased Ernesto Valverde, but rather the none conceded. Goals in the 36th and 87th minutes by Gerard Pique and Carlos Alena respectively saw Barcelona triumph over Villarreal. This was La Blaugrana’s first clean sheet in La Liga since matchday two and was much needed for Valverde’s men. Ousmane Dembele once again impressed as he was selected alongside Leo Messi and Luis Suarez but it was Alena who made a name for himself scoring Barcelona’s second and ensuring that Valverde’s 400th game as a La Liga manager ended in victory.
Celta Vigo returned to winning ways as Iago Aspas scored twice against Huesca to move Celta up to 11th place in the standings.
If Eibar could only beat one Madrid team then of course they would have chosen Real Madrid and not Rayo Vallecano.
| FULL TIME |
The only goal in the game from captain Adri Embarba for Rayo Vallecano ?
Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Eibar pic.twitter.com/7MV0nEBxCZ
— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) November 30, 2018
Angel Correa’s pass…oh wow!
| GOAL! |
WHAT A PASS ?
Take a bow, Angel Correa! Diego Costa's touch wasn't bad either…
— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) December 2, 2018
Alaves stay in top four. Next week they face Atletico, hmmm.
Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Eibar
Celta Vigo 2-0 Huesca
Valladolid 2-4 Leganes
Getafe 3-0 Espanyol
Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia
Real Betis 1-0 Real Sociedad
Girona 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Barcelona 2-0 Villarreal
Alaves 1-1 Sevilla
Levante – Athletic Bilbao to be played on Monday